State lawmakers representing southern Brooklyn for the most part either sidestepped or took a swipe at Gov. David Paterson’s “State of the State” address, in which he set forth sweeping proposals to root out political corruption in state government.
Paterson’s proposals include setting up a system of public campaign financing similar to the one in New York City with matching funds.
Under Paterson’s proposal, lobbyists would be limited to contributions no larger than $250 and corporate contributions would be banned entirely.
The maximum contribution for any candidate for state office, including the governor, would fall from $55,900 to $1,000.
Paterson also proposed term limits to all state office holders. This includes the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller to two four-year terms each, and members of the legislature to six two-year terms.
Paterson also wants to set a single independent ethics commission in Albany charged with enforcing the state’s ethics and campaign finance laws.
The new commission would have the legal authority to refer criminal and civil cases to the attorney general.
Currently, the attorney general has limited jurisdiction over political corruption cases.
Sen. Marty Golden (R-Bay Ridge, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach) said Paterson’s call for reform was a smokescreen to take away from the state’s real problems.
“People need honest reform but they also need jobs and more opportunity,” said Golden. “The governor was well-intended, but he has to keep spending down. There’s a real hopelessness the state. I don’t see the economy coming back. People are worried about their jobs.”
Golden said everyone would like there to be some campaign finance laws in place on the state level and that he has always favored term limits.
Sen. Carl Kruger (D-Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach), who serves as the chair of the senate’s powerful finance committee, said he has to give the reform measures in Paterson’s speech further thought and would get back to the newspaper about it.
Assembly member Peter Abbate (D-Bath Beach, Bensonhurst, Borough Park, Dyker Heights) said Paterson’s reforms don’t amount to a hill of beans.
“We are already doing (reform) bills that will take care of everything. Whatever he talked about is already being worked on and will be voted on in the next week or soon after,” said Abbate, noting that Paterson did not propose any specific bills toward ethics reform or campaign finance.
Abbate, who has been in the assembly for 24 years, said he is against term limits.
Sen. John Sampson (D-Canarsie), the senate’s Democratic Conference leader, said he understands New Yorkers’ anger, but is more about working on solutions than rhetoric concerning ethics reform.
“The people want statesmen to fix our problems, not politicians who ascribe blame without offering a solution. For decades, the Senate spent, borrowed, and taxed New York into fiscal crisis, and now millions of families have reached their breaking point, unable to survive more of the same old pass-the-buck politics,” said Sampson.
“Throughout our first year in the Majority, we transformed the Senate into a more bipartisan and functional chamber, tackled shady public authorities, and built a new tier in the retirement system to save taxpayers billions,” he added.
Among the Brooklyn lawmakers who appreciated the speech was freshman Sen. Daniel Squadron (D- Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens)
“I’ve been pushing ethics reform like crazy since I got in office,” said Squadron, adding his goal remains to pass a law that increases the independence of an ethics commission that includes enforcement and disclosure.
Squadron said in general he is against term limits, but understands the frustration that would lead to such a suggestion where several state lawmakers have been in office over 20 years.
“There are a lot of proposals for reform and now the key is not to have proposals, but to have them become laws,” said Squadron. “I’d like it to be first thing we do (in session) this year.”